Enterprising Food Conference – Nicholas Dunne, Killowen Farm Yogurt

My third post from this conference held as part of the Harvest Festival in Waterford. Here are the first (Peelham Farm) and second (M&D Bakery).

Killowen Farm Yogurt: They took over Killowen Dairy from orginal producers. 3 of them (friends) took over and lost a pile of money over 12 months. Mentor came in (Wexford CEB appointed) and suggested trimming the team (out went the 2). He also took advice from a friend of his who ran an ice cream company.

So the friend sat down with them and asked them “Are you out of your heads?” – he kept it up for an hour just to make sure they were serious! They put in better processes and tried for 1 day manufacturing, 1 day packaging and it took them a couple of months to do that.

They consolidated the business and moved it back to their dairy farm (which was 8 miles away). From there they started to do some market research and then sold into new local stockists.
They then got a listing with Pallas Food via a Speciality Foods fair (Bord Bia run) in Dublin and that moved them into volume and then the food service area. Food service is now 30% of their business.
They supply into a number of local hotels with the blessing of Pallas Foods so they retain the direct relationship with chefs whose feedback is blunt, immediate and vital 🙂

He touched on HACCP – they got away with murder early on but now are completely compliant so they can trace back for each batch where the raw ingredients came from. He said this is crucial for working with new buyers.

He again said that the assistance of Wexford CEB vital to them.

Awards – these reflect their emphasis on pure ingredients. Great Taste awards, Blas na hEireann (Gold medal) and JFC Innovation awards – most innovative food company. (a 3 star great taste award and 10 1 star awards).

Funding – initially Leader and then Wexford CEB helped with an owners managers course and assisted with their website. They also use on average at least 2 mentors a year. Going forward they hope to approach Enterprise Ireland for assistance.

They backload via Pallas Foods.

Packaging. New packaging launched in the last weeks. It took months and months and was shortened via Bord Bia Vantage programme.

They do about 40% private label – Superquinn glass jar and also Aldi. He sees this as helping their growth and also lifts their standards a lot.

Above photo from my previous post on their redesign. Thanks to Nicholas – that was a frank and enjoyable presentation which I am sure many food producers will appreciate and learn from.


Enterprising Food Conference – Dermot Walshe, M&D Bakery

My second post from this conference held during the Harvest Festival in Waterford (see the first one here). They are raw notes and I have not edited them a whole lot.

M&D Bakery. They are in business 25 years and the Blaa is their main product. Started in the 1690’s with the Hugenots who set up an area behind Reginalds Tower known locally as New Geneva. One of the businesses there was a bakery and they imported French flour which was used to make Pain Blanc. Leftovers from their main loaves were used to make smaller pans and it is believed that the Blaa was named as a shortened version of Blanc!

They soon spread and in the 1800’s and 1900’s there were always 10 to 12 bakeries in the City with up to 15,000 blaas made each day. In the 1990’s the number of 9 dwindled down to only 3 still going in Waterford.

Even with only 3 bakeries there are still 10,000 to 12,000 sold a day.

He then explained how the Blaa was given a Euro-torque award and that lead to a lot of coverage for the Blaa and joining Good Food Ireland helped enormously. They took advantage of that and featured in the Galway Volvo Ocean Race Green Dragon blaa sandwich.

After that (and the publicity which then followed) they extended to Electric Picnic, Oxygen and have recently been “listed” by the Guinness Storehouse as their sandwich bread of choice.

They are now thinking beyond the regions and moving to baking and freezing to extend distribution nationally (which fortunately the Blaa is well suited for).

In 2009 they were contacted about the idea of obtaining protected geographic status. They are hoping for PGI – Protected Geographic Indication.

This would be a strong selling point for Waterford and would would be applied for by the Waterford Blaa Bakers Association. The point is to keep commercial blaa manufacture alive in the City so the status would be the beginning of the story.

He shows a graph which showed the various countries which hold this designation  – France and Italy have over 150 designations each. The UK have over 50. We (Ireland) have 4.
Only 2 of those are actually available on the market 😦


Enterprising Food Conference – Scottish Borders Food Network & Peelham Farm

I was fortunate enough to be able to get to this event held as part of the Harvest Festival in Waterford and because of the lack of wifi in the venue I took notes during the presentations and will share them over a couple of posts. They are raw notes and I will not be editing them a whole lot.

This one was from Denise Daly Watson who spoke about a Food network she helped to set up and also a little about her own farm based food business.

Scottish Borders Food Network is a Leader funded project which started in 2006 – founded by businesses for businesses with a consensus approach. 61 members – primary producers as well as food hospitality providers (24 producers, 33 providers and 3 associates) Strong artisan focus

She said that their understanding of what consumers/customers what has helped them to add value [and hence to increase margins, keith]

As part of balance of committee 50:50 producers and providers.Their goals include promoting local Borders food, providing a forum for member businesses, tackling the distribution challenge and making the link between food and the environment.

Funding – they have received 100k over 2 years from Leader with matched funding from Local Authority. Also the Scottish Government is very supportive with a strong food policy.

Some of the Network members

Actions Taken:
* Employed a coordinator, created a brand and a website, showing with regional food and tourism events, chefs events to meet the producers.

* Accessability – this was a response to their civic responsibility and addresses the myth that local food is not everyone across the social divide.

* Post Leader Funding – increasing membership, bringing in more artisan producers. Stronger brand recognition.

* 5 year regional food strategy with trans-national collaboration to qualify for EU/Leader funding

* Address shortage of vegetable growers

Learnings to date. Consensus is important, this leads to member buy in. Communications are important to develop trust along the food chain.
Running a food network is complex – mixed profiles and requirements

(Denise and her husband – photo from 5pm blog)

She runs Peelham Farm – they are organic and spent a lot of money developing a brand having realised the importance of that in their marketing.
Sustainability, transparency and taste – two of the things which are so important to them and they won a 2009 farm award because of that.
They use rare breeds and have learned the skills/trade of butchering. They sell to a number of Michelin star chefs.
They have an open farm – transparency. So they encourage farm visits.

Finally she said that their use of the internet will be extending and youtube to be added to their twitter and facebook portfolio.

[liked that presentation a lot, very passionate and inspiring speaker, keith]


Why bother? Bord Bia Food & Drink Industry Awards 2011 – Closing Monday.

The closing date for these is next Monday 12th September (entry here on their site – click on the relevant category on the left of that page to see online entry form).

The Why Bother is answered by them:

  • Our media partner, The Irish Times, will announce and profile all 18 shortlisted companies in early November.
  • Following the announcement of the overall category winners, at the Brand Forum End of Year Event on 22 November at Trinity College Dublin, they will feature in a two page feature in The Irish Times newspaper.
  • A short video interview with each of the 18 shortlisted companies will feature on the Bord Bia website.

So that is clear enough – this is about publicity in the mainstream media = increased sales (if distribution is in place). To take advantage of the shortlisting (and the award winning if you are that good) make sure you have your stockists listed on your website and also actively promote the shortlisting and the other companies listed on your Facebook and Twitter accounts (assuming you have them).

Categories (you can enter more than one)

  • The Exporting Award
  • The Branding Award
  • The Innovation Award
  • The Entrepreneurial Award
  • The Domestic Success Award
  • The Sustainability Award

I am looking forward to seeing the shortlist. Once again – details here on Bord Bia site.